This Saturday night, it’s the return of Conor McGregor after a fifteen-month recess since his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov. McGregor went ahead and largely created a fight card out of nowhere as the UFC was never planning to run this date and McGregor waved his wand to make it occur.
On the opposite side, Saturday is veteran Donald Cerrone, who will enter the UFC octagon for the 34th time. It has been debated who McGregor’s return date should have been with the alternative being Justin Gaethje, a fighter that dispatched Cerrone in the opening round of their contest last September.
Cerrone, 36, enters this fight coming off losses to Tony Ferguson and Gaethje and is a distinct underdog in the fight. An upset by Cerrone would curb plans for McGregor’s “season” that he has alluded to with the hopes of fighting multiple times in 2020 and re-establishing his placement within the promotion. Waiting in the wings are UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, Jorge Masvidal, a third fight with Nate Diaz, and McGregor’s ultimate destination – a rematch with Nurmagomedov.
Many questions surround McGregor from his time away from competition and problems outside of the sport. The Irish star has denied allegations over two sexual assault investigations that were reported last year, although McGregor has not been charged. In addition, he had high-profile incidents that included the destruction of a fan’s cell phone caught on camera, as was an incident at an Irish pub where he struck a patron.
2020 will play a big part in writing the next chapter of McGregor’s career with Saturday’s fight representing the first paragraph of that story.
Phil Chertok will be joining John Pollock this Saturday for the UFC 246 POST Show here on the site and below are the five questions leading into UFC 246.
POST Wrestling: How big does Saturday’s UFC 246 card feel and does it feel similar to other notable fights with Conor McGregor?
Phil Chertok: Last week it felt as if this was going to be a bit of a lackluster return to the Octagon for the former two-division champion, but as we’ve rolled into fight week, it feels nearly as big as any of his previous fights. This contest doesn’t have as much riding on it in terms of divisional importance, but it’s still the biggest of Conor’s career as we’ll talk about later. The fact that the UFC has been off since before Christmas has pros and cons regarding promoting this fight. On one hand, because the UFC has been off the television, they have not had an opportunity to promote this event the way they normally would. On the other hand, it feels like fans have finally gotten a rest after a relentless stream of events in 2019 and are hungry to see some action again, what a better meal than with the sport’s biggest star?
POST: What are the biggest questions you have regarding McGregor in his first fight since October 2018?
Phil Chertok: Is Conor McGregor an elite fighter able to engage in the highest level of competition, or is he flash in the pan loudmouth that talked his way into his greatest accomplishments? The question is ludicrous on one hand because it’s so reductionist but it’s what everyone is thinking. It seems what the fans want to know is if Conor is treating himself like a truly world-class athlete, or if he’s merely a carnival barker shouting, trying to lure marks into the big top. Saturday night should give us some clarity.
POST: What does a victory for McGregor mean for the fighter and for the UFC this year?
Phil Chertok: It means that the UFC can safely put him in a title fight with few serious complaints. Suggesting anyone else gets a title shot with an off-weight win against a fighter on a two-fight losing streak would have you laughed out of the building most days, but Conor’s drawing power and the animosity between him and the champion Khabib make it the most likely fight the UFC would want to make should McGregor and Nurmagomedov both win.
POST: Conversely, what would a loss signify and how much would it derail McGregor’s “tour” for 2020?
Phil Chertok: A loss would be pretty devastating to the idea that Conor should be fighting for a title anytime soon, even with a win it takes some mental gymnastics to justify one. But losing to Cowboy who’s never been able to perform in big-time fights would pretty much mean he’s not at the top of the division anymore. Hopefully though even in defeat, Conor still shows us that he’s committed to being a real athlete an not just a spectacular self-promoter.
POST: Beyond the main event, what stands out on this card for you?
Phil Chertok: Its’ not the deepest card the UFC could put on but there are a few small gems to look out for. First is the return of Holly Holm who needs a win to stay relevant after losing her last fight to champion Amanda Nunes. She’s re-matching Raquel Pennington, while their first fight was extremely lackluster, Pennington has improved a lot since then so I’m expecting a better contest. The most interesting fight outside of the main event must be Anthony Pettis vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira. This is Pettis’ first fight since losing to Nate Diaz last year and he’s going up against a very tough although unknown opponent. Ferreira has quietly amassed a five-fight win streak in one of the toughest divisions in the sport. This is a huge opportunity for Ferreira who can really make a statement with a win over the former lightweight champion in front of millions of viewers.
Tune into the UFC 246 POST Show this Saturday night with John Pollock & Phil Chertok to review Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone and the entire card from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas